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Killswitch Engage Interview

A Conversation with Vocalist Jesse Leach

By

Killswitch Engage

Killswitch Engage

Roadrunner Records
Updated April 07, 2013
After a ten year hiatus, vocalist Jesse Leach has rejoined Killswitch Engage for the new album Disarm The Descent, which was produced by the band’s guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz. I spoke with Leach shortly before they headed out on a European tour to support the new record.

Chad Bowar: If the Times Of Grace project would not have happened, do you think you still would have ended up back in Killswitch?
Jesse Leach: It’s hard to say. If nothing else, Times Of Grace made me fall in love with the road again, especially touring with Adam (Dutkiewicz) and Joel ( Stroetzel). They are stand-up guys along with being some of my best friends. It really warmed me up and got my juices going and got the road bug back in my blood. In one way, it was a physical catalyst, but I wouldn’t say it was a direct result of why I’m back in the band. But it helped. I got my feet wet.

When you were initially asked about rejoining the band, you declined. What changed your mind?
It didn’t feel like I would be the guy for the job as far as singing somebody else’s songs, something I’ve never done before. I was really unsure if I wanted to do that. With Times Of Grace going, I thought I would ride that out and see what happens. I was working my job at the bar and everything was okay with me.

Then it sort of hit me when I read the press release and realized they were going to do auditions to find another singer. That’s when I thought maybe I would give this a shot and see if it works, see if I can wrap my head around singing someone else’s songs. Lo and behold, after a few weeks I fell in love with the material and decided I wanted to audition.

How did you change as a musician in the 10 years you were away from the band?
I definitely diversified my sound, what I listen to, what I enjoy. I think a six-year stint in a blues rock/stoner rock band really helped me fall in love with the blues and in singing and coming up with blues melodies. Also just growing as a person, having confidence in myself. That helped a lot with my voice and learning my instrument. Playing on stage on touring with other acts, playing tons of club shows, all that stuff really strengthened me and helped me get where I am now where I have confidence as a person and a musician.

When you rejoined the band, was it better that you did a bunch of shows first, then recorded a new album, as opposed to the other way around?
Absolutely. Touring completely changed the album. I started writing prior to touring, then once we got on the road my whole mindset changed, my voice changed, just from getting out there and doing it again after a bit of a hiatus. Even lyrically it affected it too.

Was the recording process for Disarm The Descent similar to your first stint with the band?
No, thankfully. It was not similar at all. It was pretty effortless as far as having a clear vision of what I wanted to do. Adam and I, having worked on the Times Of Grace album together have a very comfortable working relationship and we’re really good friends. So it was a lot of getting in there and getting takes done and then evaluating them and tweaking them.

Maybe towards the end there was a little bit of pressure because we had a deadline for the record and were getting ready to go out on that next tour. We had to get it done before the tour, so there were three or four songs that were written on the spot, but I think they turned out to be some of the better ones on the record.

How did Adam as a producer impact you and the way you did the vocals for the album?
He knows my voice really well. He knows me as a person, knows how I operate. He and I work really well together. He knows when I need to stop, he knows when I’m not pushing hard enough. Also lyrically he can help me tweak stuff. He can take something I’m pretty happy with, suggest a few things here and there and help make the song say what it needs to say.

As far as melodies, he’s a genius. I’ll come up with an idea I think is great, and he’ll suggest tiny little things for me to do that are brilliant, and that I would not have thought of. He really plays to my strengths and weaknesses. He also makes me laugh at myself a lot. He’ll make a compilation of my really bad screw ups and right before getting ready for a take will play them and laugh at me. And I’ll start laughing, and it breaks the tension and makes me do better takes because the pressure I put on myself to sing is broken.

He has a really interesting method. We work really well together. We have a good time. We record at his house, and when the day is done, we fire up the grill and get the beer going and party together. It’s a great environment. We live there, we record there. It’s awesome.

You recently played the Soundwave Festival in Australia. How was that?
Absolutely amazing. We did it last year, too. It’s just a really well-organized festival. There are no hiccups and everybody plays on time. The weather is beautiful and the people are nice. It’s one of the better tours to do in the world, that’s for sure.

You’re touring in Europe right after the album release. Was that a conscious choice to kick off this album’s tour cycle there, or just how the offers happened to work out?
The offers came in that way. I’m actually pretty stoked on it. We do really well in Europe. They are just more receptive to metal over there, just in general, from what I’ve seen. I think it’s a good move on our part. It wasn’t planned that way, it was just how the offers came through.

When will you be doing another U.S. tour?
This summer we’ll have a full headlining tour. We’re taking out some killer bands. It’s going to be a heavy hitter. We didn’t want to compete with all the festivals, so we kept a fairly small bill.

Are there plans to phase in more of the songs you originally sang on (both new and old), or will you continue to do a lot of Howard’s material?
Ideally, but the great thing about it is that when I rejoined I had already fallen in love with some of those songs. I actually enjoy singing some of his songs more than I do mine. (laughs) They are really well-written and the crowd responds well, especially “The End Of Heartache” and “My Curse.” Those are songs that are huge that were hits. I don’t think those will ever be phased out.

For me personally, I would rather start playing more of the new stuff than the Alive Or Just Breathing stuff. It’s a fine line we’re trying to walk. I’m really proud of this new record and would love to play more of it live. But it all depends on what our fans want. They are the reason why we do this. We’re able to go out and tour because of them.

Right now your main focus is on Killswitch, but do you see a future for either Seemless and/or Times Of Grace?
Seemless has been done for a while, so I don’t see that happening again. We’re all good buddies and talk, but I don’t think we’re going to unearth that one again. Times Of Grace, we definitely want to do new material and push the genre boundaries and creative boundaries of that band. Adam and I have already discussed it. I also have The Empire Shall Fall, which a band that I play shows with occasionally. It has turned into more of a studio project. There’a new EP that I’m going to begin working on demoing soon, so I’m staying busy.

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